The aroma of spices hits you as you walk in the door of the Middle Eastern Bakery and Deli in central Phoenix -- as well as the scent of freshly made desserts. This small counter-service restaurant and market serves all kinds of main dishes, but they put dessert first in their name -- so we will, too, for today's purposes. Indeed, it's hard to resist that dessert case on your way to the counter to place your order -- filled with sweets from cookies to baklava.
Baklava looks like such a complicated dessert, but is a simple layering of filo dough and flavor. At the Middle Eastern Bakery we found three different kinds of baklava. Each one was unique.
The first one we tried was the regular baklava. It was in a big pan and cut into triangles. We really loved the taste of cinnamon in the walnut filling. The syrup, which gets poured over the baklava at the end of preparation, offers the right amount of sweetness to balance the nut filling. It squishes out when you try to cut into it or bit into it. So delicious.
The most interesting baklava of the day was the one shaped like a little finger. The filling was sparse, offering just enough hints of lemon and chopped pistachio. It was good -- but a little more unusual than traditional baklava.
The little birds nest of baklava was our favorite. The pile of pistachios filling the center like birds eggs created a super flavorful crunch and totally changed the walnut filling flavor. It was also pretty. The filo was folded and wrapped instead of stacked creating a more airy nest around the filling. That same wonderful syrup was pooled at the bottom so it still had that baklava taste.
It will be hard to eat traditional baklava, or want to make it ourselves, when we know we can get fresh baklava from Middle Eastern Bakery & Deli.